Recently I was asked by a friend, “what are the things that I must do while in New Orleans?” “Well, laissez les bon temps rouler, of course,” I replied. I mean, there are so many things to do in New Orleans that you could stay busy in this city forever!
Most famous for the annual Mardi Gras festival, there is so much more to New Orleans than just this once a year event.
New Orleans has something to appeal to everyone. History lovers can check out the New Orleans Plantations or participate in a French Quarter walking tour, while foodies can chow down on all of the incredible New Orleans food, and photographers find themselves surrounded by Instagramable places in New Orleans.
I mean, there is definitely a reason that New Orleans made the Top 18 Places to Visit by CNN. We love visiting New Orleans and find ourselves there several times a year being immersed in the Cajun culture.
That’s why we made this list of the Things to do in New Orleans! No matter what your taste, we have you covered in this post so keep reading!
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Things to Do In New Orleans
Explore the French Quarter
New Orleans’ French Quarter is the historic epicenter of the city. It is here that you will see and feel the city come alive. The streets are lined with gorgeous architecture, cast-iron balconies, and exuberant street life, all of which define the culture of this city.
As New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter is the perfect area to explore if you are a history lover. The French Quarter is the best place to grab a to-go cocktail and start walking around to discover all that the city of New Orleans has to offer.
You will find that so many of our things to do in New Orleans are centered around this area.
Be sure to visit Royal Street and explore one of the oldest streets in New Orleans. Start out at Canal Street and follow Royal through the heart of the French Quarter taking in the fabulous architecture and the street performers as you continue walking.
Royal Street is a great place to explore the amazing architecture and the many art galleries and antique shops that New Orleans is famous for. There are also numerous thrift stores, restaurants, courtyards, and cafes that call Royal home.
One of New Orleans’ most recognizable and historic landmarks, Jackson Square will definitely be on your list of things to do in New Orleans. This park, that is also a National Historic Landmark, is located in the center of the city, close to the Mississippi River.
Today people flock to Jackson Square to take the perfect selfie in front of the iconic square and the St. Louis Cathedral which majestically stands behind it.
Artists display their work all along the fence around Jackson Square while street performers can be found performing on the sidewalks nearby as well. Walking around the square truly is a very entertaining area!
You will quickly see why this is one of the top free attractions in New Orleans.
The French Market
What started as a Native American trading post along the Mississippi River is now a cool, open-air market and one of the top attractions in the city of New Orleans. Here visitors can discover unique meals, snacks, and souvenirs from local vendors that call the historic French Market of New Orleans home.
You will find a wide variety of goods here ranging from seasonal vegetables to Mardi Gras beads and fresh oysters. The French Market is a cool experience and well worth walking through during your time in the French Quarter.
This is one of the fun outdoor activities to do in New Orleans.
No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to the famous Bourbon Street. Now, I know that this might not be for everyone. Bourbon Street is gritty, to say the least.
Walking up and down the street, you will notice that it is lined with bars. It is crowded. It is loud. If that is not your thing, then definitely don’t go to Bourbon Street at night.
If you don’t mind that, then grab a drink, listen to some live music, and go join the party. I mean, Bourbon is definitely full of life and an iconic street in New Orleans! It is one of the top attractions in New Orleans for a reason.
Recommended New Orleans French Quarter Tours
Take a Cemetery Tour
I know, you are probably thinking I am crazy, but stay with me on this one. The city of New Orleans has fascinating historic cemeteries!
Take a New Orleans Walking Cemetery Tour into St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 to hear stories of the infamous Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. You will have the opportunity to see her grave as well many other haunting stories from the city of the dead.
Take a French Quarter Tour
New Orleans is a city full of intrigue, history, and culture, especially the French Quarter. Taking one of the many tours walking offered is a perfect way to discover the French Quarter of New Orleans.
We loved this New Orleans Ghost Tour–We love booking “ghost” walking tours in historic cities. During these tours, you learn so much history, and in New Orleans, you start to understand why it’s considered one of the most haunted and historic cities in the world!
Or if you are into photography, there are some awesome French Quarter Photography Tours available.
A good one in New Orleans is this afternoon food and history tour. We were not only introduced to some great new restaurants, but we also had a fun time making new friends and learning so much about New Orleans. French Quarter Walking Tours are one of the top attractions in New Orleans.
Take a Plantation Tour
If you would like, there are several tour companies that will pick you up and do all of the driving for you and some that combine tours like this Oak Alley Plantation and Swamp Boat Tour or this Plantation Brunch and Swamp Tour.
Tour the Garden District
The Garden District is like stepping back in time and is definitely different than being in the French Quarter. Learn all about the Garden District when you do this Garden District Walking Tour.
I love strolling through the Crescent City’s Garden District dreaming of which mansion I would choose if I won the lottery (really, that is the only way I could live in the Garden District). LOL!
Go On a Swamp Tour
You have to visit the Louisiana swamp at least once during your time here, so take a day trip and head out of the city on an adventure like this New Orleans Alligator Tour.
A New Orleans swamp tour is a fun way to experience the naturally wild side of New Orleans and is one of the top attractions in New Orleans.
You can choose a calm tour on a barge or an adrenaline-rushing swamp airboat tour, the choice is yours! You can read all about our New Orleans gator tour here.
Take a Food or Cocktail Tour
Why not get a nice sampling of the local cuisine from the experts? Taking a New Orleans food tour is a great way to do just that. Allow the locals to introduce you to all of their favorite bars and restaurants when you take a cajun food or cocktail tour in the city! We love the New Orleans Cocktail and Food History Tour and the Cocktails and Jazz Small Group Tour!
Taking a food or cocktail tour is one of our favorite things to do in New Orleans!
Eating is One of The Best Things To Do In New Orleans
You definitely don’t want to go to New Orleans on a diet! That is because New Orleans is a food institution. New Orleans is known for its southern cuisine and is home to many world-renowned chefs and restaurants. Put on your elastic-waisted pants and get your taste buds ready for a southern culinary adventure while being introduced to a huge part of the culture!
There are so many amazing things to eat in New Orleans, we could dedicate a whole article (or a whole blog) just to that, so for this article, we will just share a few of our favorites restaurants.
Our first stop in New Orleans is usually to find beignets. I mean, honestly, one of the best things in New Orleans is a beignet!
What is a beignet?
Well you see, a beignet is a deep-fried pastry that is absolutely heavenly. Traditional beignets are dusted in powdered sugar while they are still nice and hot.
Indulge in this delictable powdered sugar topped pastry with a steaming hot cafe au lait while visiting Cafe du Monde, a popular French Quarter spot. It’s guaranteed to not disappoint.
Expert tip-The line at Cafe du Monde gets extremely long. Instead, head down to the Riverside Mall. There is a Cafe du Monde in there also. You get the same great beignets and coffee but will wait half the time.
Court of Two Sisters
For an amazing Jazz brunch, you have to go to the Court of Two Sisters. This New Orleans restaurant has incredible courtyard dining and serves us an all-you-can-eat brunch accompanied by jazz music on the weekends. Their 5-star Cajun cuisine will have you camped out and never wanting to leave!
If you want ice cream, then make your way to the Garden District and head to the Creole Creamery for some incredible homemade ice cream!
Another famous New Orleans food is the po’boy sandwich.
Grab one of our personal favorites, the muffuletta.
We loved eating a hot muffuletta from the Napolean House located in the historic French Quarter. Not only is the Napolean House an awesome historic restaurant, but they serve up a perfect muffuletta as well.
Desire Oyster Bar
For some fabulous food right in the heart of the action, make your way to the French Quarter’s Bourbon Street and visit Desire Oyster Bar. They are easy to find, just look for their fabulous Broadway marquis sign!
Once inside the dining room, you are treated to a cool decor inspired by the Vieux Carre. If you love oysters, then Desire has you covered as you can pull right up to their raw oyster bar.
We enjoyed a more traditional dinner at Desire, starting with the best crab cakes that I have ever eaten. These crab cakes were fried perfectly crisp on the outside while staying moist and perfect on the inside!
Since Marty is allergic to shellfish, he enjoyed an appetizer of spinach artichoke dip that was just as tasty.
For our entrees, Marty enjoyed the chicken and waffles that had this amazing bourbon cane syrup on them!! I chose the shrimp and grits and it was to die for. The grits were perfectly cooked and the shrimp was large and plump.
For dessert, we opted for the bread pudding and the Market fruit pie, both of which were amazing. We highly recommend visiting Desire Oyster Bar during your time in the Crescent City.
Take in the New Orleans Music Scene
New Orleans is a city known to be a music lover’s paradise. If it is music you crave, then you are in the right city. For this, head where the locals do, straight to Frenchmen Street.
Music seems to pour out of every doorway on Frenchmen Street. Clubs line the street, ranging from jazz to blues to rock and reggae.
You can spend the evening popping in an out of the clubs enjoying all of the live music that Frenchmen has to offer.
Of course, you have to include some jazz in your music mix, and there is no better place to do that in New Orleans than the historic Preservation Hall. For a true historic jazz experience, you can’t miss Preservation Hall. Just be sure to visit their website to see get all the details to plan your visit.
There are also some cool music tours if you are interested as well. Honestly, checking out some live music is one of the best things to do in New Orleans.
Visit a Musuem
The city of New Orleans is home to some amazing museums, including the National WWII Museum. Why not check them out while you’re in the area.
The National WWII Museum is located in the Central Business District of New Orleans. Inside the National WWII Museum, visitors are treated to an expansive collection of artifacts and immersive displays outlining the events of World War II. The National WWII Museum is one of the top attractions in New Orleans and one of the top museums in the country!
The Cabildo is the Spanish building sitting next to the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. Inside the Cabildo you will find the Louisiana State Museum, and an awesome tribute to Louisiana and New Orleans history.
I’m not sure if Mardi Gras World qualifies as a museum or not, but it is definitely a cool place to visit! Mardi Gras World takes visitors behind the scenes to teach you all about the history of Mardi Gras including seeing the workshop where the beautiful floats are created!
Enjoy the River Walk
The New Orleans River Walk area is about 1.3 miles located along the Mississippi. People us the River Walk area to enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities. Here you can walk, jog, rollerblade, or just relax along the banks of the Mississippi. There is also a sculpture garden area and a River Walk Mall.
This area is a fun little outdoor oasis in the city!
River Cruise on a Steamboat
Enjoy a River cruise on a steamboat while you are in New Orleans aboard one of the many riverboats that call this area home. There are several options of steamboat cruises to choose from include historic hour-long cruises to fancy jazz dinner cruises.
No matter which cruise you choose, this is definitely a unique experience that you are sure to enjoy!
Watch a Parade or Attend a Festival
Of course, New Orleans’s most famous celebration is Mardi Gras! Mardi Gras is held annually and is associated with the Carnival season which always begins on King’s Day, which is January 6. Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday) varies because Easter Sunday varies.
Mardi Gras Day is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, so if you want to enjoy the Mardi Gras festivities, come during this time! This is one of the top attractions in New Orleans, so plan well in advance!
Honestly, though, New Orleans is always looking for a reason to party! There are constantly festivals and parades taking place in the New Orleans area.
On our most recent trip, we had the opportunity to see the Chris Owens Annual Easter Parade.
Another cool festivals is the San Fermin in Nueva Orleans festival. This is the running of the bulls New Orleans style!
Check out a listing of festivals here.
Best Places to Stay in New Orleans
New Orleans is full of great places to make your home base. For a good location on Canal Street, we opt for The Sheraton or the JW Marriott, both are an easy walk into the action of the French Quarter and close to the trolley stops to access other parts of the city.
There are also loads of nice places in the Garden District and the Marigny if you prefer to be out of the French Quarter.
If you’re feeling adventurous, then why not consider staying in one of the haunted hotels in New Orleans?
Final Thoughts on Things to do in New Orleans
No two trips to New Orleans are the same. We love that every time we visit we have an amazing experience, and believe it or not, we actually do all of these things to do in New Orleans every time we go. We could visit the French Quarter and the Garden District over and over again and never get tired of it!
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About the Author
Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. While she is a professional educator by day, her passion for travel has her jet-setting all over the world during her free time.
Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blog, That Texas Couple. Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region. She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.